For those who live in the Maritimes, our local track is Atlantic Motorsport Park. It is an excellent place to hone-in the driver skills. But a lot of people who have a dream to race do not know how to get started. I was one such person and thought it was too hard/impossible for about 10 years. I’ve made many dumb car mistakes on the street thinking the racetrack was too far of a reach. In this blog, I’ll share my tips on how to get started in racing in the Maritimes.
I started out in 2014 at the ripe age of 33 when I reached a point of being able to afford my first sports car, a brand new Toyota 86 (Scion FRS actually, but I’m a Toyota fanboy influenced by Initial D). I had to try this car on track at least once. So I read a few online articles about getting started and finally penciled into my calendar the monthly ASCC club meeting where I got acquainted with the right people.
- Don’t wait until you are old. There are plenty of affordable racing disciplines. It can cost less than you might think.
- Get in touch with the right people in the community. Do this by getting access to the ARMSInc Forum. It is very old, but it has some excellent threads on how to get started,go to the monthly club meeting and meet the folks in person. It took me 10 years to get to one of these. When I finally showed up, I met an incredibly supportive and friendly group of people. Or get in touch with the organizers via Facebook: ARMS page, ASCC page, AMP General Discussion, Trac Series page, Atlantic Time Attack page.
- Learn performance driving on the track. Start in Autocross, Lapping or Time Attack for a couple of seasons, but if you got the dollars to go wheel-to-wheel, jump right in – don’t wait. You will have to go through a high-performance driving school before you’ll be allowed to race, you’ll get tremendous amount of coaching and support (if you ask for it). My friend, Ryan, has never done any track driving, only dipped his toe into autocross and rallycross, but he got behind the wheel of a GT3 K-swapped CRX and did exceptionally well in his rookie year.
- Start with a disposable car. If you want to own and don’t have much money, start with a GT6 car – cheap, low power momentum car. Learn the tricks, learn the mechanical skills to maintain it. Avoid heavy cars (means more consumables, more $$$). It is naïve to think you can run a 3400 lbs Subaru or Mustang for as cheaply as a well-prepped 1990’s Golf Gti or Miata. The best cars to start with –
in my personal opinion after 6 years of racing experience across many disciplines – are cheap disposable cars, because crashes do happen to the best of us, and more frequently when we reach the skill level between confidence and actual ability. Hence, Corollas, Civics, Golfs, FRS/BRZs, Miatas and many more are all great starter cars you can get for under 5K CAD. All you need is some proper tires and performance brake pads to start in solo sports: Lapping, Time Attack and Autocross. But if you want to wheel-to-wheel, it’s usually pennies on the dollar to buy an already-caged racecar. Keep an eye on sites like racing.ca and ask around the ARMS community. There are a lot of unused racecars sitting around in trailers and garages, that I’m sure the owners would entertain offers for.
- Arrive and drive, if you got the funds. It costs about the same as boating or golfing. So if you got the disposable cashblow, then rent a seat from the Atlantic Racing Team or come to the club meeting and state your intent to rent a seat.
- Partner up! Don’t do it alone. I have had a tremendous amount of help with my 188 Honda CRX Si. I took on a K-Swap project that I didn’t have the skills for, but I was open to learning, and I reached out and got help in learning skills like car suspension setup, alignments, etc. It is a lot more fun to go through the process with a friend/partner that has the same passion and half the budget. Agree on how you will each act in a crashed car scenario. Visualize it together and make an agreement.
- If you don’t have mechanical skills or tools, get some of both – and a place to do the wrenching. You at the very least need to be able do a brake service, check tire pressures, swap wheels and do fluid changes.
- Write down your racing and life goals. Make sure they go hand in hand. If there is a will, there is a way, but don’t sacrifice your marriage for it after going into major credit card debt after trying to survive through a race season – and this brings me to the next point…
- Budget wisely! GT6 class (slowest class in the bunch) will cost 10-15K CAD to get started if you buy a <5K car (unless you are an expert mechanic who can DIY everything quickly). Parts like tires and brakes are 1500 CAD alone per season. Bearings and clutches and other unexpected failure will happen. So, don’t be the guys that get in on a 5K racing budget their first year, struggle with finances for the season and then have a heap of metal sit in their garage for years go come because of something as minor as a blown motor or transmission (happens all the time). Don’t be naïve, budget wisely!
- Be kind and thankful to the volunteers. Remember, Atlantic Region Motorsports (the road racing governing body that stems from the FIA) is a volunteer-run organization. Be thankful! Instead of complaining, roll up your sleeves to make it better.
If you’d like some help or have additional questions, the best place to reach me is on my Instagram: @nroussakov (don’t forget to subscribe/follow and like my posts 😉